Happy Jul everybody! The Christmas season in Denmark is called Jul, (pronounced “Yule”) and starts on December 1 with a variety of traditions, foods and activities that will continue until the evening of December 24th, a day known as Juleaften.
I come from a long line of Scandinavians. We’ve got Norwegians, Danes and Swedes in the bloodline, so I tend to cherry-pick the traditions, foods and activities my ancestors participated in, and bring only my favorites into everyday life. For example, I do not condone the practice of raping and pillaging villagers/villages like my Viking ancestors did, but DO think that the Viking burial ceremony of sending the body of the deceased out to sea, in a boat stuffed with supplies for the afterworld, while all his friends and neighbors shoot burning arrows at the boat from the shoreline until the boat catches fire and sinks is pretty awesome, and the way I would like to be buried, thank you.
So ANYWAY, now that Jul is upon us, I wanted to kick off December with the traditional woven heart baskets seen throughout the homes of Danish families across the world. Growing up, there would always be a few of these hearts hung on our Christmas tree and filled with candy. The oldest known woven heart was made by the Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen in 1860, and hangs in the Hans Christian Andersen House today.
Making these woven hearts is a great craft for kids, and a really festive decoration. I like making mine out of felt so I can use them year after year, but I know lots of people make them out of construction paper- so whichever you have handy is great.
Start with two long, flat ovals like the ones below. If you are making your hearts out of felt, you can fit four of these shapes on one piece of craft-store felt.
Fold the oval shape in half, and cut three parallel lines from the fold, up towards the rounded edge; stopping about an inch from the curve. Cut the remaining oval pieces in this same way.
With one folded felt oval in each hand (folds facing each other) take the top arm of the felt in your right hand and weave it over and under the felt fingers of your left-hand felt, so that you see the color change in every other arm of the left-hand felt.
Weave the next arm of the right-hand felt in between the left-hand felt fingers so that the opposite colors are showing (it should start to look like a checkerboard.) Continue until your heart shape is complete!
This woven heart basket can also be used in February to hold all of the Valentine’s Day cards the little ones bring home from school, so no need to pack it away your Danish hearts with the rest of the Christmas decorations!
You can add a handle to your heart basket and hang it on your tree, fire place, or string up the hearts for a cheerful Danish garland!
Happy crafting! Happy Jul! Yay for December!